On Wednesday night, while most Berkeley residents were probably watching the president’s State of the Union address, about 20 residents of Berkeley City Council District 1 attended a neighborhood meeting hosted Councilwoman Linda Maio.

The top item on the agenda was meeting new police chief Michael Meehan, who tried out many of the lines he apparently used at his swearing-in address today, including the one about the parking tickets he received his first day on the job.

Chief Meehan noted that BPD is no longer at the forefront of law-enforcement technology and is overdue for updated equipment, such as a planned new radio system which will allow the department to communicate with neighboring law enforcement agencies.

Residents of District 1 (myself included) are especially interested in the crime issue, since there has been a rash of assaults and a steady stream of break-ins in our area over the last year. Crime was a hot topic the last time Councilwoman Maio convened a community meeting, and it’s a perennial on the neighborhood e-mail lists. So those of us at the meeting had plenty of questions and information to share with the new chief. The councilwoman brought up the fact that North Berkeley BART seems to bring criminals into our neighborhood from other areas and provides a quick getaway (better cooperation with the BART and UC police departments is such an obvious need that it was surprising to hear there’s room for improvement).

One parent raised a concern about unsavory activity by adults in and around the tot lot in Ohlone Park (near Hearst Ave. at McGee).

Heavy traffic near the BART station, particularly during commute hours and around the casual carpool lineup, was another issue raised by residents, and various ideas were floated for increasing pedestrian and cyclist safety.

Chief Meehan concluded by offering to set up a meet with residents and do a walkthough of the neighborhood trouble spots.

Councilwoman Maio also reported on the work of the 2020 Vision project, showing the educational achievement gap that prompted the project and outlining some of the proposals offered so far. These proposals focused mainly on early education; no mention was made of the controversial proposal to eliminate science labs at Berkeley High School.

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